Liz Randol lost her gun. Or misplaced it. Or loaned it to a friend and he lost it. Or he misplaced it. Or somebody stole it from him. Or the dog ate it.
I’m not sure how the Scranton Democratic mayoral candidate’s loaded Sig Sauer .380 wound up on a sidewalk near a bar she likes that is a block away from an elementary school in a residential neighborhood loaded with innocent kids and the occasional drug dealer.
All I know for sure is that disaster could have easily exploded in the city she wants to lead had a child or dealer with an itchy trigger finger found it.
A child could have died. A cop could have died. An older person out for a walk could have died.
Randol, 41, writes off the lost gun as an embarrassing mistake from which she can learn. The biggest lesson here is that, despite her Ph.D. in philosophy and teaching experience at the University of Scranton, despite awards and plaudits from local businesses and non-profits, despite county and state government connections and despite heartfelt applause from the young, beautiful people who adore her, Randol is no longer mayoral material.
Too smart for her own good, Randol let us down. Nothing even remotely hip blossoms from negligence that could have easily killed somebody.
Scranton has enough problems without putting anybody in the mayor’s office who will not walk voters and taxpayers every step of the way through such a drastic story. We need to know the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth so we can decide for ourselves if Randol is responsible enough to lead this distressed city, let alone the police department.
I stress lead – not loan. Randol refuses to publicly identify her “friend,” to whom she now claims she loaned her gun after target shooting in November 2011 in Wayne County. He liked the gun, she said, and offered to clean it. But that’s not what police say Randol told them when they called to tell her they had her loaded firearm. Police say the woman who would be mayor told them she did not recall when she last saw her gun – loaded or otherwise – and never mentioned target shooting or loaning her gun to a friend.
Still, bells and sirens should have immediately gone off in the cops’ heads. Randol’s head must have been ringing. I imagine it still is. I know mine is.
So I decided to start from the beginning and try to prove exactly how this mayoral candidate’s loaded gun wound up on the street outside a bar a block away from an elementary school in the city Randol vows to lead into a brighter future.
Scranton police told me that a good citizen had found the loaded gun, thought that part of Prescott Avenue was in Dunmore rather than Scranton and took the gun to the Dunmore police station. From there, Scranton police somehow got involved and eventually returned Randol’s gun without pressing her for answers about how such a gross violation of public safety had occurred.
Randol first publicly mentioned her “friend” when she and I spoke on the air last week after varying troubling versions of the gun incident surfaced – more than a year after the incident – some versions which Randol vigorously denied.
When I called last week for the report, Scranton police said they had just reopened the case because Randol had stopped by headquarters an hour or so earlier and asked for a copy of the report. Randol questioned the accuracy of the more-than-a-year-old report, saying that she first found out her gun was missing when police called and not before, as the report reportedly stated. I say “reportedly” because police have now sealed the report that has been available all year because the case is open again.
Scranton police said they knew nothing about Randol’s claim that she loaned her gun to anybody. For that reason, they said they wanted to interview that mystery man. I do not know whether that interview has taken place. After I identified and obtained a phone number for Mr. X from his place of public employment, he failed to return several detailed messages I left for him – not at all polite since I have known his family for decades.
As for Randol, I’ll have more questions for her later.
Same goes for her Democratic opponent, respected West Side martial arts teacher and city tax collector Bill Courtright, who has returned my calls and left anxious messages denying that he knows any details about the case or that some people accuse his supporters of spreading the gun story whenever and wherever possible.
I stopped by the Dunmore police station earlier thus week and asked to see their report concerning the man who found and turned in Randol’s gun. The acting chief said he’d check for the report and get back to me. He has not yet called to say whether a Dunmore police report exists.
Randol confirms that she has a concealed weapons permit that authorizes her to carry a loaded firearm. Mr. X is also said to be a concealed weapons permit carrier. Both permits should be immediately revoked for gross irresponsibility.
Irresponsibility sooner or later comes back to bite you - which, of course, is far better than getting shot.
Reckless Randol did this to herself and should lose her bid for mayor.
During Kathleen Granahan Kane’s campaign to become Pennsylvania’s first elected Democrat and first elected female attorney general, she adopted a powerful mantra that stressed her commitment to law and ethics and propelled her to victory.
Kane, 45, emblazoned the words “prosecutor, not politician,” on her campaign materials and promised that the good old boys who depend on special interests would have no friend in Harrisburg.
But just weeks after her swearing-in ceremony, Kane is playing politics with the worst of them - for a Republican, no less.
Witnesses claim to have seen her – maybe it was her twin sister or body double sent for security reason, for all I know – at a Sunday fundraiser for Lackawanna County District Attorney Andy Jarbola, who is running for re-election.
Since Jarbola once employed Kane as an assistant district attorney and actually did a rousing television commercial defending and supporting Kane during the campaign, some people are calling it payback. Such mutual support and admiration is not unusual. You-scratch-my-ballot-I’ll-scratch-yours is the way bare-knuckle politics is played in Northeastern Pennsylvania.
Unsavory as it is, politics as usual is the norm. But Kane made such a big deal about turning over the tables among the political status quo that people actually believed her. Disappointment among political supporters is understandable. But Kane rabid loyalists are justifying her appearance at Jarbola’s annual brunch by saying it shows how impartial and non-partisan Kane can be.
Only in hard coal country can such delusion pass for public service.
Because I didn’t attend, I can’t say for sure if Kane was the woman writing the check.
So on Monday I placed my first official call to the new attorney general’s press office and asked to speak with director of communications Ellen Melody. Kane’s spokeswoman was in a meeting, another aide told me. But she said she would check to see if I could get confirmation that Kane did attend the Jarbola fundraiser. When she returned, she informed me that I would have to talk with “the campaign” since the fundraiser was not an official attorney general’s appearance.
What campaign? Is Kane already running for re-election? Does she have a “Friends of Kathleen Kane” organization already in pace to solicit cash contribution for the future? And, since she is the attorney general, like it or not, any where she goes she is and will be identified as the attorney general. Whether or not she or her staff realizes it, public responsibilities come with the public service job.
Kane’s job description brings another significant issue into the discussion: Did the attorney general bring anybody from her staff to the political event?
Since Kane’s office refused to answer questions about the Jarbola event, I also can’t say for sure if Kane’s bodyguard Pat Reese attended with his boss. Reese regularly failed to return my phone calls when he served as Dunmore police chief so I don’t expect him to return my phone calls today.
Witnesses claim they saw Reese, who now serves the Commonwealth as “supervisor/special agent for executive protection detail” and heads up Kane’s personal security detail when she and other office staff travel in public.
For all I know, the person who looked like Reese might also have been a body double meant to throw off Kane’s critics. But witnesses are often accurate. So are taxpayers who now wonder if Kane’s attendance at a partisan political fundraiser – for which I’m absolutely told she wrote a check – involved a paid state staffer who was working security for her in his official capacity while attending a private political fundraising event.
OK, maybe Reese is allowed to go.
But what was he driving? Kane faces more troubling questions if she and Reese arrived in a state vehicle.
But maybe she borrowed one of the family trucks from her husband’s company that contributed about $2 million to her campaign, the same company that benefits from a lucrative state contract hauling liquor.
The contract and how the Kane family held onto it all these years is a story for another day.
Kane needs to start answering questions.
Unlike the recent press conference when Kane showed up with her lottery announcement and refused to take reporters’ questions, maybe this time Kane will recognize that the public has an inviolable right to know how public money is spent and how valuable state resources are accounted for.
Unless, of course, the prosecutor is more politician than even her most ardent admirers want to admit.
My earliest memories of traveling to Ireland, the land of my grandfather’s birth, include the grand announcement for everyone in County Galway to hear that, “Stephen has come home.”
My cousin Mary made it clear that I was as much a part of the village “gathering” as anyone born and raised in that rugged west coast countryside in the little town of Cornamona. In the eyes of the Irish, my presence there was as much a part of Irish greatness as anyone or anything.
I have continued to come home for decades, as often as possible, making about a dozen trips in the 40 years since I first set foot in that splendid homeland.
Ireland is now welcoming anyone and everyone who wants the Irish experience for himself or herself. Calling the official welcome “The Gathering,” tourists far and wide are converging on the Republic of Ireland this year for a wondrous celebration of Irish hospitality. Combining food, drink, ancestry, art, literature, history and so much more, the Irish await its sons and daughters from afar who want to come home.
And you don’t need Irish blood to feel the comfort. Any authentic Irish gathering extends to anyone who wants to share the goodness.
If you’re shy, you can sit quietly by the turf fire, taking in the sights, sounds and smells, captured by your own new Irish thoughts and the magic of the moment. Extroverts can talk and even sing – I just might break out into a verse or two of “Tread on the Tail of Me Coat Ha Ha” or “Brannigan’s Pup.”
If you imbibe, a thick pint of Guinness, that the Irish claim is as nutritious as drinking a loaf of homemade brown bread, with its creamy lather and dark solace, sets a festive mood.
And, if we’re lucky, we’ll have legendary Dublin tour guide Tommy O’Reilly come out of retirement like he did last year to host us on a coach tour around the Republic with an inside track that only O’Reilly can provide.
I’m sounding like I’m going back, don’t I? That’s because I am and I want you to come along. With “The Gathering” already underway in the biggest cities and the smallest villages there’s no better time to make the trip.
Ireland is, indeed, a trip of a lifetime. If you’ve never seen the endless shades of green, you must if you’re able. If you’ve visited in the past, you must go again. And, I don’t think St. Pat would argue if you put a request in your prayers for the afterlife that includes a tiny cottage that overlooks the gentle lake and the ruins of the castle on Loch Corrib.
Ah, what a life – even an afterlife.
I’m planning the trip as we speak. I’ve already contacted O’Reilly and I’m thinking about seeing Mary one soft afternoon in Clifden where, well into her 90s, she is comforted by the sweet love and kindness of the staff of St. Ann’s where she lives as “The Queen of Cornamona.”
We’re off for eight days – from October 2-10, on a tour that takes us into Dublin for a traditional evening, off to the spectacular Cliffs of Moher, into Trinity College to see the world-famous Book of Kells, the illuminated manuscript that monks produced under the roughest conditions, and the Ring of Kerry.
Blarney Castle is always a hit, even though I don’t need any more blarney. Spend a little time with me and you’ll know what I’m talking about. By then, though, you’ll have a little blarney of your own.
I’ve done Ireland for decades under many conditions. The CIE tours are beyond comparison because we’re looked after at every turn. And, because I’m accustomed to the good times, I l know the right corners to cut that will add further enjoyment to our trip.
It might sound stereotypic to say that knowing the angles is part of being Irish. But my Irish runs deep as the River Shannon and either you know the angles or you don’t. I do.
So there you have it, we off and running and I want you to sign on. Go to AAA.com or call 800-982-4306 for details.
“The Gathering” is a massive undertaking, unparalleled anywhere that will make this trip even more meaningful. The Irish understand the importance of coming home and being taken care of once you get there.
I know the feeling that deepens each time the plane touches down and I set foot on Irish soil. If you’ve ever been, you understand. If you’ve never been, join me to feel the emotion and the laughter as soon as you, too, set foot in this stunning land.
Yes, I’m going home again.
We’re all going home.
And when we do, there will likely come a time on the trip, when it suddenly dawns on you that, whether you’re of Irish ancestry or not, that you belong there as sure as the waves break over the cliffs and the gulls sing as they dive above the sea, that you, too, are part of Ireland and Ireland is part of you.
Four little heads stood out like fresh flowers in a coal pile.
Ranging from big to little, the oldest girl on the right to the smaller boy beside her to the smaller boy beside him to the smallest boy beside him – children of the defendant and the victim – sitting Wednesday in the Lackawanna County courtroom where a jury trial was scheduled to begin.
Police charged daddy Kevin with beating mommy Denise.
If convicted, daddy faced a prison sentence.
But even after getting battered, mommy didn’t want to hurt daddy. So she agreed to a deal that spared him from any chance of prison and a felony conviction on his record that would make it harder to get a good job.
Mommy needs him to get a good job, one that pays well enough for him to contribute to the household that he’s not part of anymore. If and when the divorce is finalized, she will still need money to put sneakers on eight small feet – the two smallest of which swung back and forth as the littlest Murphy kicked his legs and feet that didn’t even reach the floor.
Yesterday was a bad day for the Murphy family.
Yet, daddy Kevin made out.
They say he beat his wife.
Then he beat the rap.
And battered women everywhere lost a little something in the process.
The out-of-town judge from Philadelphia agreed to allow daddy Kevin into the ARD program, a break usually reserved for first-time non-violent offenders. Good prosecutors rarely agree to ARD in the case of violence, especially domestic violence. But the prosecutor from the state attorney general’s office agreed to the deal.
Even though he works for the state’s first elected female attorney general, Kathleen Granahan Kane – he agreed to a deal that trivializes violence against women.
It’s fair to expect Kane to know about the case – she might even know the defendant, who served two terms as a state lawmaker in the House of Representatives. Kane, like him, is a Democrat. And they both hail from adjoining neighborhoods in Scranton, where tribalism – particularly Irish-American tribalism - rules the political scene.
But maybe Kane didn’t know about the deal. If that’s the case she should have known. Regardless, Kane must be made aware of its impact and the sad damage the agreement her office supports does to other beaten women who depend on law enforcement officials to protect them and punish those who attack them.
Society is in trouble when the protectors enable the attackers.
We’re in trouble.
Daddy Kevin’s in trouble, too, because he kept that big chip on his shoulder in court, shaking his head as if in defiance, rejecting the prosecutor’s version of what happened that terrible day when the defendant savagely attacked his wife and her friend, beating them both and almost choking the friend into unconsciousness before fleeing – drunk, according to witnesses – in his car.
Daddy Kevin shook his head no and no and no again as the prosecutor described the beating Denise received at the hands of a big man with an admitted history of barroom violence who once told me he was considering not running for re-election because his wife was seriously ill.
Daddy Kevin remains in denial. But the big city judge either missed or ignored the dramatic and pathetic display of irresponsibility. And a dangerous man walked away unscathed.
Required to attend ninety AA meetings in ninety days, Daddy Kevin has yet to face his biggest weakness which, of course, is his ego. He lost his re-election bid because he lied about a college degree he didn’t have and then he lost his mind in a drunken rage. If he’s not careful he’s got more to lose that he claims he wants to keep.
In court yesterday I watched the littlest Murphy sit on his mommy’s lap and flash a big grin beneath a mop of beautiful wavy hair. It looked like one of his baby teeth had recently fallen out. The child seemed happy with his mommy.
But he also must have known that something is wrong with daddy, who is the only person with the power to fix what ails him. Good daddies always put family above themselves. And that test of goodness is always out there, beckoning the weak, the insecure, the drunk and disorderly and the lost to either succeed or fail.
Daddy Kevin beat the rap this time. And tomorrow’s another day. Flowers can blossom in a coal pile. But you better watch out for thorns.
Built like the college athlete he once was, the state lawmaker stood by the door in a downtown Harrisburg bar greeting his colleagues as they came in off the street. With his rusty-reddish hair and boyish looks adding to his style, he smiled and basked in their professional affection.
“Hello, Kevin,” said one member of the House of Representatives.
Hi, Kevin,” said another.
“Kevin,” said yet another.
I remember that night a few years ago when I ran into the now former state rep and accused wife-beater. We were just getting to know each other and I remember being impressed with the ease with which Murphy handled the acclaim. Not bad for a rough Irish kid from North Scranton who rose through the ranks of Scranton City Council and now sat as a state legislator.
People genuinely seemed to like him. I was starting to like him. Well-educated professionals in Scranton and Harrisburg were starting to like him. Most important, though, people were starting to respect him.
Then Murphy imploded.
Two days before last April’s primary election, I received an anonymous phone call from a guy who said Murphy was a fraud who had lied for years about graduating from the University of Scranton. He never finished, the man said.
C’mon, I said, Murphy can’t be that stupid.
Check it pout, the man said.
Murphy was that stupid.
The big lie contributed mightily to his loss in the primary to a former professional boxer and mixed martial arts cage fighter whose only political experience involved deciding whether to punch to the body or the head or go for a choke hold.
As primitive as that sounds, Murphy’s lie was more brutal. Consciously, willfully and intentionally betraying the people you get paid to serve is downright savage. And the good people of Scranton did not appreciate the deception.
Murphy tried his best to spin his deceit, lying again in the process, but he failed.
Then he lost.
Whatever respect he had earned unraveled.
Then Murphy exploded.
Police arrived on the scene after Murphy fled, leaving in his wake two people who claimed that he had beaten and battered them.
One victim was his wife.
The other was her male friend.
Murphy turned himself in the next day, which, according to witnesses who said he looked drunk before driving away, saved him from alcohol-related charges that would have added to the sad and complex nature of his criminal charges.
Murphy’s jury trial starts tomorrow morning in Lackawanna County Court. An out-of-town judge will preside as well as a prosecutor from the state attorney general’s office, appointed because of a conflict of interest between Murphy and District Attorney Andy Jarbola, who grew up across the street from Murphy.
Murphy did not take the witness stand during his preliminary hearing. His wife testified. Her male friend testified. And Murphy better testify if he expects jurors and the rest of us to take his story seriously and fairly weigh the evidence in the case.
The truth will help Murphy most of all.
As of now, though, his truth-telling record is seriously flawed.
Redemption is often a long road that starts with responsibility. Murphy can redeem himself. To do so, he must introduce a few personal laws for himself like he did when he introduced legislation in the good old days when he mattered.
Murphy no longer matters to most of us. To his children, however, he might still be somebody. That is all the more reason for Murphy to face and vanquish his demons, for him to try to regain his self-respect and move on with a life worth living.
As a late friend of mine always said, you don’t have to go to school to learn, the world’ll learn you.
OK, so I was kidding when I told Webster and Nancy this morning that I got up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom and ran into a guy in the hallway holding a petition. If it happens, though, I won’t be surprised. Scranton voters are petition crazy - with good reason.
Government big and small is out of control.
Bad government rules.
We’ve got elected officials more suited to group therapy and prison rehab than for making smart decisions that benefit everyone – even those who are not related through blood and marriage. Yet many people still view these small-minded bureaucrats as if they’re true statesmen and stateswomen with real leadership ability and the courage to make moral decisions on our behalf.
When you step outside the city limits the view gets worse throughout Lackawanna County. Small towns from Dickson City to Peckville are run by certified drunk drivers and lackeys who run interference for admitted political swindlers. You’d think they’d hide under the bed rather than campaign again and again and again on their experience – as drunken drivers and political lackeys.
And they win.
Again and again voters cheer these lugs and defend them as if they’re the cream of the crop rather than they pesticide run-off they are. Again and again they sprout through the fertilizer to blossom and reproduce, offering the future a chance at a whole new generation of drunken drivers and political cretins.
The new breed heralds any movement as progress and charges forward, bringing darkness to the light to cast a shadow over a new dawn. At family reunions they toast each other, promise more of the same and are true to their word.
The only good news for most of us is that we’re not in their bloodline. The DNA strain that runs through them does not run through us. We have a future unsullied by dysfunction and denial.
We’re safe – sort of.
But we’re not represented in the hallowed halls of good government.
Recent petition drives target county commissioners for extinction and challenge the city council decision to raise parking meter revenues – both commendable challenges that will improve our lot.
Who needs three county commissioners, anyway? Two majority goof-offs who take care of themselves and those close to them and a minority commissioner from the losing political party who poses for photographs and offers less watchdog aggression than last year’s littleYanks bobblehead doll are far more trouble than they’re worth.
Taxpayers pay through the nose for this burden that benefits few people outside the circle of blockheads that has influence and power over the dim lights who rule the roost.
Sign that petition.
Then sign the one that opposes the threat to raise parking meter fees and adds another day for which we must pay to use our city. Scranton welcomes tens of thousands of people downtown for the St. Patrick’s Day parade on a joyous Saturday that will be made less so if parade-goers have to feed the meter. The same goes for the wildly successful First Friday festivities that bring out-of-town hipsters and beautiful people to walk and gawk at an abundance of bad art mixed with good that is on display throughout the town.
If things go according to bad plan, the meters will now require money until 8 o’clock. How hip is that? What ever happened to artistic freedom and the license to lounge? Oh wow. We’ve got to fight for our right to party.
And the best way to do that is to sign the petitions no matter which one the new breed of activists shove under your nose. Be against everything. Tear it down to build it up. Burn the village to save it. Anarchy for Scranton is better than council president Janet Evans for another term. Refuse to watch Office reruns. Hold Democratic majority Commissioner Corey O’Brien’s saddle shoes hostage. Mess up majority Commissioner Jim Wansacz’s thick head of hair. Threaten to ban Republican minority Commissioner Pat O’Malley’s young son from posing in official county photographs and tagging along with dad to special events that non-politically-connected kids can’t attend
But watch out. Be careful. The night of the long knives is upon us. Don’t even trust people you trust. Politics is power and power corrupts absolutely in hard coal country where absolute power is absolutely corruptible.
Get paranoid. Look over your shoulder at all times. Eavesdrop whenever possible. Don’t look in windows because that’s illegal but a pair of binoculars while staking out your opponent’s wing fest fundraisers and clambakes is advisable.
I’m concerned that not enough people will truly honor our lost warriors by removing the name of a gangster from a public park and replacing it with the name of an honorable man, a true warrior who died in Afghanistan in 2007, killed in action at 26 while fighting the Taliban and sacrificing everything he had to try to save his friends.
Jan Argonish, who played in the park as a child, died trying to save America, too.
Whether the mission was or is good foreign policy doesn’t matter.
What matters is that Argonish and those like him, those who died at war in Iraq and Afghanistan and elsewhere, died trying to help.
I’m worried that fewer and fewer people will now help us we try to take back the park from those who hold it hostage.
Public officials named the “Robert Mellow Park” in the Blakely Borough in Lackawanna County after their crooked benefactor – a former state senator and powerful political warlord, powerful in ways the Taliban are powerful in Afghanistan. This warlord, though, trafficked in corruption rather than heroin. But he is as dangerous as any drug kingpin in poppy country.
Bob Mellow might be even more dangerous.
The Taliban are fighting attempts to bring democracy and freedom to their land. Mellow helped kill democracy and freedom in our land, the land of the free and the home of the brave.
But, truly, how brave are we?
Argonish died fighting for freedom.
For what will we fight?
Mellow dishonored freedom, himself, his community and his country.
For this, borough officials refuse to change the name of the park? For this, officials stand by Mellow rather than standing by the grave of Argonish and company, pledging allegiance to freedom’s fight and the standards by which our nation survives and perseveres?
For this they turn their back on honor.
Yes they do
For weeks now I’ve been blowing the bugle and trying to muster support to take back the park. I have joined members of the Argonish family in their fight to rename the park. I will stand with them and their supporters no matter what happens.
And I will continue to ask for your help.
We need each other to try to persuade people to join us and, if we must, embarrass and shame those who refuse to see the light at the end of the public corruption probe. This ongoing investigation has netted more than 30 corrupt public officials in Northeastern Pennsylvania who mostly pleaded guilty. Juries convicted the handful that went to court.
They, like Mellow, who pleaded guilty and admitted his crimes, now languish in federal prison. Our dead warriors rest in far darker places, in graves from which they will never emerge.
But their spirit is alive and their legacy is strong if we embrace that spiritual legacy of America.
That’s why I again ask you to join this cause, enlist in this mission and pledge your support no matter what happens.
We fight to fight.
And if we lose, we lose.
But those of us who stand for something very special in our community will know that we did our best. Those who shy away, those who are complicit in aiding the enemy, will forever live with that shame.
Please spread the word.
Use social media. Ask high school and college students to get involved. Ask the church. Ask bikers. Ask cops and firefighters. Ask teachers and the unemployed. Ask everybody.
Twitter and Facebook must be better utilized.The VFW and American Legion must get involved on a state and national level. Send letters to elected officials. Ask them for their help. New Congressman Matt Cartwright has refused to help us. In the future we will refuse to help him. Maybe he’ll change his mind.
This mission matters more than you might understand.
If we fail, the future of your community might very well be at stake.
Who would you rather emulate - Argonish, an honorable man who went down fighting, or Mellow, who slithered into a prison cell and, unless we stop him, will likely return one day to bask in the sunshine in the public park that bears his name?